Domestic Violence in Same-Sex Couples
Domestic violence is the abusive behavior of one of the partners in a relationship. It may occur in both heterosexual and same-sex forms of relationships. The early conceptualization of intimate partner violence did not encompass abuse between same-sex partners. In the existing literature on the topic, many efforts have been dedicated to studying violence in heterosexual couples rather than in same-sex ones, which has created a gap in the available knowledge on the subject matter. Sexual mistreatment and abuse are common in the general population. However, much focus has been put on violence committed by men against women and particularly, in what is considered straight relationships (Frankland & Brown, 2014). Intimated-related violence is a chronic problem in the world. Same-sex relationships have added a new dimension to the problem that society has to understand. Domestic violence in same-sex relationships is a challenge least appreciated by the justice system due to society’s disapproval and stigmatization of gay and lesbian lifestyles. The purpose of this paper is to explore the problem of domestic violence among same-sex couples; the main cause of the issue is discrimination in the justice system that negatively impacts the prospects of victims to seek justice.
Overview of the Material to Be Covered
Domestic violence in lesbian and gay relationships, as it is in heterosexual relations, varies from sexual, physical, psychological, or emotional abuse (Gerstmann, 2017). One partner may develop and maintain a pattern of activities that involve using and sustaining authority and influence over the other, leading to fear and discontent of the affected partner. The use of threats is a common trend where the powerful feel the need to dominate without questioning or obstruction. The perpetrators of violence find solace in the social barriers to the partners seeking justice, which gives them the impetus to commit more acts of abuse without fear of prosecution.
Renzetti and Miley (2014) establish that lesbian and gay partners’ experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence have grown extensively in the recent past. The prevalence of abuse can be higher among this group than among the general populace due to the secrecy that is involved in same-sex relationships. Stigmatization of gays and lesbians hinders reporting of violence for fear of public condemnation (Frankland & Brown, 2014). In essence, many victims suffer in silence for fear of backlash from society.
According to Gerstmann (2017), the assumption that it is hard for one to leave a same-sex relationship and be accepted as an ordinary member of the community fosters a sense of enslavement, which a partner might use to perpetuate abuse against his or her spouse (Frankland & Brown, 2014). The issues such as forced sex or violent sexuality are tolerated because of fear. Abusive partners might depend on homophobia as a tool to gain excessive control over their partners. Research studies reveal that twenty-one out of a hundred gays are forced to have sex with their partners (Stiles-Shields & Carroll, 2015). The acts are either accompanied by physical assault or threats. An intimate partner can also hurt his or her spouse emotionally and economically. The commitment of violence in gay relationships is reported to exceed about two times that of what is experienced in marriages among lesbians (Renzetti and Miley, 2014). The high prevalence of domestic violence among gays is attributed to the masculinity of the partners, which increases the chances of the use of force to advance personal interests or to force compliance.
Social discrimination perpetuates domestic violence among the same-sex couples that the group faces. The mainstream society's disapproval of homosexuality makes it difficult for the victims to come out and report the incidences of violence. Fear of prejudice forces most of those who are affected by domestic violence in gay or lesbian marriages to keep a secret concerning the issues of mistreatment in their relations (Gerstmann, 2017). Same-sex couples whose families and communities are unaccommodating of homosexuality have limited support, which increases their isolation. Subsequently, this factor makes it harder to combat abuse in same-sex marriage.
Same-sex couples have been not recognized by the United States Constitution for a long time, which led to victims of domestic violence in same-sex marriages failing to seek legal assistance due to the fear of discrimination. In 1924, Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago, IL, which went ahead to document gay rights organizations in the USA (Gerstmann, 2017). However, this move did not contribute to the legal recognition of gay marriages. Subsequently, gays and lesbians continued to be discriminated against by mainstream society, making it hard for them to apply for police or legal help freely.
In January 1973, the State of Maryland statutorily banned same-sex marriage becoming the first state to officially outlaw homosexuality (Gerstmann, 2017). The criminalization of same-sex marriages in some states makes it tough for the partners who are abused to look for redress from the authority. Evidence of police investigations discriminating against gays and lesbians abound. Homophobic violence among same-sex couples is a well-documented problem in western nations. Victimization studies indicate that in the United States, about 70-80% of gays and lesbians experienced abuse in public due to their sexual orientation, a development that discourages them from seeking justice whenever they are mistreated in their relationships (Messinger, 2011). Violence occurs, and it is not made public hence making it hard for society to understand the depth of the problem among same-sex couples.
Additionally, there is evidence of abuse emanating from suspicion of partners that their companions are not gay or lesbian. Bisexuality is not tolerated among the majority of same-sex marriages thus a contributory factor to violence. Most of the victims do not report the incidences due to stigmatization (Goldberg & Meyer, 2013). The degree of injury varies from one region or country to another. The discrepancies in the rates of violence in states can be attributed to varying discriminations against people living in same-sex marriages, which affect reporting of violent incidences (Brown & Herman, 2015). Therefore, to combat domestic violence among gay and lesbian couples, many efforts should be dedicated to fighting mainstream society’s discrimination against same-sex partners. The success of the war on the stigmatization of homosexuals will help them feel free to report violence in their marriages as well as reduce biases in the criminal justice system. It will lead to prosecution and thus lower the rates of domestic violence among same-sex couples.
The United States criminal justice system has been marred with discrimination against members of same-sex marriage for a long time (Carp, Stidham, & Manning, 2017). In societies where uranism and lesbianism are relatively acceptable, the rate of violence registered is lower than in communities where it is unacceptable. Misconstructions about same-sex relationships contribute to the seclusion of mistreated lesbian and gay partners by concealing the truth about intimate violence in same-sex marriages and thus placing the security of the ill-treated partners at sustained risk. Therefore, there is a need to reform the way the criminal justice system handles domestic violence in same-sex marriages to combat spiraling spousal abuse in gay and lesbian relationships.
The Anti-Violence Program that aims at addressing the domestic violence menace in areas such as New York City is pegged on the assumption that all marriages are heterosexual (Carp, Stidham, & Manning, 2013). In this respect, it is one of the colossal stumbling blocks that the victims of abuse in same-sex marriages face while seeking justice. Moreover, domestic abuse is generally seen as a problem for women in their marriages, which shaped the development of anti-domestic abuse in the United States (Renzetti & Miley, 2014). Thus, lesbians and gays who are abused by their spouses have an uphill task trying to convince the community that they are victims of violence in their marital life.
To date, addressing domestic violence in same-sex marriages remains an uphill task due to the prevalence of discrimination against gays and lesbians. One of the factors that have exacerbated this problem is the failure of the legal definition of domestic violence to include same-sex couples. Consequently, the abuse that is encountered among lesbians or gays does not get the much-needed address in the justice system (Gerstmann, 2017). The law is discriminative to gays and lesbians, denying the express access to justice when challenges occur in their marriages. Thus, the lobbying to have a marriage between homosexuals is legally recognized, and the justice system improves on how it handles domestic violence among same-sex couples. The constitutional recognition of marriages among people of the same sex and subsequent reforms in the criminal justice system will contribute to the decline of homophobia and societal discrimination against couples in gay or lesbian relations (Brown & Herman, 2015). Consequently, it will enhance reporting and prosecution of domestic violence, hence reducing the rates of same-sex marriages.
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In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriages are legal and deserve equal rights to heterosexual marriages (Gerstmann, 2017). The Fourteenth Amendment required the states to license the relationships of the same-sex partners if their marriage has received legal licensing and finished out-of-State. However, the couples in same-sex marriages are yet to receive express recognition from society and the justice system. Discrimination against them is still rampant, which hinders combating domestic abuse among same-sex couples. The rate of violence in homosexual couples is a complicated problem. However, it can be reduced by society accepting same-sex relationships, which can enhance the openness of the partners. The secrecy which surrounds the activities that take place in gay and lesbian relations hinders the community from knowing more information about the violence occurring (Stiles-Shields & Carroll, 2015).
In April 2017, The 7th District Court of Appeals ruled that the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination against the LGBT at their place of work (Gerstmann, 2017). The ruling came after the decision of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Kimberly Hivel v. Ivy Tech Community College on April 4, 2017, which outlawed prejudice against employees based on their sexual orientation (Kimberly Hivel v. Ivy Tech Community College, 2017). Despite the milestone progress in the quest to protect the rights of same-sex partners, the prejudice against them in the USA is still noticed, a development that forces many of them to suffer without seeking legal redress. Consequently, the low self-esteem among same-sex couples hampers the capacity of the victims to open up to their friends and obtain assistance. This factor results in the prevalence of violence is unabated.
Domestic violence among same-sex couples is a problem that is reinforced by discrimination against homosexuality in the justice system and mainstream society. It hinders the prospect of reporting and prosecution of many incidences of abuse among gay and lesbian couples. The criminal justice system is still biased against same-sex marriages, thus denying them express freedom to seek justice in case of domestic violence. Most of the victims of abuse suffer in silence, which creates a hurdle to understanding the degree of the problem. Studies into the issue indicate that domestic violence among same-sex couples is higher than in heterosexual relations, with gays suffering much more than lesbians. Violence in same-sex marriages will be adequately addressed when society treats gays and lesbians the same as it treats heterosexual relationships. Further studies are required to enhance knowledge about the complex issues that surround violence in same-sex marriages or relationships. The impact of this paper will include enhancing knowledge about the challenge of domestic violence in same-sex couples and the quest to get justice for the victims.
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